Wherein I become obsessed with a 28-second YouTube clip and attempt to explain it. [Originally written in January 2020]

It all started on Tuesday (Jan. 21) when I watched a viral video on YouTube called “how is prangent formed” that was uploaded by user J.T. Sexkik. I’d seen it a coupl’a years ago, and had since forgotten about it. It’s funny and entertaining, and it’s worth two minutes of your time. When I clicked the name to see what other uploads Sexkik offered, I was greeted by a 28-second clip titled “dog thing,” whose description is “Jazz For Your Soul”.

That’s where the obsession began…

To describe “dog thing” is to describe a nearly pure distillation of absurdity. To describe it (to someone else, presumably) is also to sound like you’ve lost your mind. Its contents are small in number: Three dogs, a fire extinguisher, a piece of smooth jazz-sounding music, and a scrolling backdrop. That’s it. But here’s where the absurdity comes in: Two of the three dogs—technically, I think it’s one dog that’s been copied and pasted, but whatever—are at the left and right edges of the video, slightly above center. They shimmy back and forth to the music while they look like they’re mid-eye-roll. Their expression resembles cartoonish teenage boredom, as if this is beneath them.

In between those “two” dogs is the third dog. This dog is notably fat, and as the video progresses it floats around the screen to various effects set to the sax of the music. It should be noted: The fat dog is playing the fire extinguisher as if it were a saxophone. You read that correctly.

If that wasn’t enough, the whole thing is drenched in two different acid-trip color palettes, as if you decided that taking Mescaline and LSD together was a good idea. The “pair” of dogs are acid-washed in sickly blues and purples, while the tropical scrolling backdrop—picture an arcade game like OutRun and you’re close—is soaked mostly in over-saturated reds and yellows. It’s hypnotic in spite of itself.

On its face, “dog thing” is ridiculous. To wit: It’s really fucking ’80s—so much so that if there were a physical copy, it’d be covered in coke dust—and also stuck out of time. But if you explore it and think about (way too much, like I’ve clearly done), you begin to understand that the silliness isn’t random or accidental. The pair of dogs prove this by themselves. Look closely: Their shimmying at the beginning lines up with the beat of the music, but as the video plays, their back-n-forth motion begins to fall behind by just a hair. It’s just one more (sub-) level of idiocy, and makes the whole presentation funnier than if they’d just been synced for the entire 28 seconds.

It should be painfully obvious by now that I’ve given this clip entirely too much of my time and energy and thought. Indeed, at some point on Thursday (Jan. 23), two things occurred to me: (1) That I couldn’t discuss the video with anyone without sounding crazy, part of that likely stemming from the fact that I couldn’t do it without bursting into hysterical laughter – “The dog is playing a fucking fire extinguisher. It’s funny!”; and (2) That I likely had wandered into some bizarre netherrealm between a Möbius strip and a feedback loop wherein I was laughing at the fact that I was laughing at “dog thing”.

And that’s the real brilliance at work here: The clip was described by a friend via text message as “Looks like a kid made it in middle school,” and does indeed have that thrown-together-in-like-30-minutes look and feel to it. When properly inspected, however, it becomes clear that this is carefully curated absurdity. Every decision made was made in service of the farce. “dog thing” is the funniest thing I’ve seen so far this year, and also maybe the smartest. It subverts silliness while being silly. It plays with your sense of what makes sense. It’s blatantly obvious and a goddamn mystery. You simultaneously think “I don’t get it” and “This is perfectly executed”. After maybe the twentieth viewing, you are the dog playing the fire extinguisher.

In the wake of discovering “dog thing,” three things are now, perhaps irrevocably, true:

1. I love this video, and I hate that I love it.
2. (I think) I’ve lost my fucking mind.
3. I’m gonna go watch it again, anyway.